Browsing: CD and Book Reviews

Many regard the seventh as the most perplexing of Mahler’s symphonies. Coming after the extreme pessimism of the sixth, it appears to revert to the pastoralism of the third symphony while maintaining undertones of terror and insecurity. The two Night Music segments that interleave the three main movements may remind you of the Blumine section that Mahler inserted in his first symphony, only to remove it as a bucolic distraction. Where is Mahler going in the seventh? The only musician to understand it on first hearing was Arnold Schoenberg, who paid literal tribute to its textures in his seminal 12-note…

Share:

At first hearing, these three violin concertos dated 1790 sound like Haydn. The second of them could even be Mozart if we didn’t know that Mozart only wrote five concertos and these are numbered 13 to 15. So who was Giornovich if he could write so well, and why have we never heard this music before, given that this is a world premiere recording? Giornovich was, if nothing else, well connected, A Croat whose name has at least 30 misspellings, he was raised in Palermo and became a French citizen because it was the best passport to hold in those…

Share:

If you haven’t heard of Grace Williams, it’s not entirely down to vicious male suppression. The Welsh composer (1906-1977) studied in London with Ralph Vaughan Williams around the same time as Elizabeth Maconchy and Imogen Holst. Women composers were emerging in the 1920s and receiving strong encouragement. Grace Williams was particularly friendly with Benjamin Britten, as their extant letters attest. She remained in London through the 1930s and was a visible part of its musical life. During the War she began to suffer from depression. She returned home to Barry in 1945 for the last 30 years of her life.…

Share:

Busoni is a great baffler. One of the most interesting musical minds of his time – the only pianist that Mahler considered an intellectual equal – his music so often falls short of his written ideas that one is tempted to dismiss both as inconsequential. Yet there is always something in Busoni that draws you back, just in case you missed the point first time round. The piano concerto, premiered by the composer in 1904, is a case in point. It sounds for the most part like an overlong symphony – 72 minutes, for heaven’s sake – in which the…

Share:

At the end of the war, when the Russians occupied Berlin’s radio centre, a musically literate officer called Konstantin Adzhemov rounded up some 1,500 tapes and sent them home to Moscow. His purpose in doing so is unknown, unless it was just part of the general order to plunder everything, but the result was that a historic picture was preserved of the music that was played in Berlin during the Hitler years. Musicians in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra had been spared from military service and their conductor, Wilhelm Furtwängler, was known to be the Führer’s favourite Wagner interpreter. The musicians…

Share:

I think I’m safe in saying there is no satisfactory performance of this troubling work on record. Lorin Maazel undertook it for DG with minimal conductorial intervention, Michael Gielen released a live- and fairly lithe – radio recording and Riccardo Chailly broached it with the Concertgebouw in the early 1990s, which is as good as it got until now but not close enough for me to the heart of the Zemlinsky enigma. The Lyric Symphony is the only major work to take the form of Das Lied von der Erde, with baritone and soprano instead of tenor and mezzo, but…

Share:

This release brings together works written between 2008 and 2015 by London-based Canadian Cassandra Miller. The Bozzini Quartet, who gave most of the premieres, is perhaps best placed to open the door to this delicate world. Four works reveal the manner of the composer, who, like the writer drawing inspiration from newspaper clippings, is on the lookout for the ambient musical material as the basis of her composition. Thus, Warblework starts with bird songs to offer us a world of changing textures with a treatment of silence and just intervals of remarkable efficiency. About Bach, which won the Jules Léger…

Share:

A letter from the English violinist Tasmin Little telling me she is giving up the circuit in a couple of years when she hits 55 arrives pretty much at the same time of her latest release on Chandos, itself a fairly regular occurrence in recent years. Tasmin Little is a prolific recording artist and her programmes often take a few strides off the beaten track. The latest consists of music by women – Amy Beach, Ethel Smyth and Clara Schumann – and the sense of an ending adds poignancy to its reception. Neither of the first two composers can claim…

Share:

La mémoire en acte : 40 ans de création musicale. (Memory in action: 40 years of musical creation.) / Editorial Committee: Laure Marcel-Berlioz, Omer Corlaix, and Bastien Gallet / CMDC, MF Publishing, 2017, 288 pages The Centre de Documentation de la Musique Contemporaine (CDMC) has been in existence since 1977. To celebrate its 40th anniversary, it has published a major work providing a panorama of current musical creation, through the words of various actors in the field, musicians, composers, producers, directors of record companies, musicologists… The first part reviews the history of the institution and the individual who ensured its founding,…

Share:

Au cœur de la création musicale. Paroles de compositeurs recueillies par Myriam Tétaz-Gramegna. (At the heart of musical creation. Composer lyrics collected by Myriam Tétaz-Gramegna.) / La Bibliothèque des Arts, 2018, 184 pages “Owing to coincidences or appointments, these interviews were exceptional moments with artists who turned out to be impressive personalities, both in the extent of their culture and their sensitivity to the reality of the world.” This is how journalist Myriam Tétaz-Gramegna closes this book, which brings together interviews with 21 major composers of the 20th century, collected throughout her journalist’s career at a Swiss newspaper. Strong, brilliant,…

Share:
1 2 3 4 5 34